These days, there are issues a public commentator cannot shy away from as a matter of choice. Indeed, when specific issues pervade the air and fill the news media with some intoxicating frenzy in the assurance of positive public sentiments, no onlooker can shy away. One very angry commentator remarked lately that virtually every newspaper relies on Obasanjo-bashing these days to sell amongst its readership.
But true to it, everyone will agree that the general sentiments reflected and perhaps shared by a large section of the Nigerian populace today, is one of deep resentment towards and detestation of anything Obasanjo. It is a feeling that is not only strong in its manifestation, it is an all-consuming issue that no serious commentator can afford to ignore. In other words, one is up against making the first choice of ignoring the issue or taking a stand in all clarity.
The second issue of choice is to opt for one side of the furious divide and define a location of priority. Quite naturally, issues of this sort are filled with three distinctive and unfailing options: the pros, the contras and the middle grounders. From the very start however, movements on the Obasanjo issue have so far been so badly blurred that the dividing lines that one imagines, apparently allows for no third option outside the pros and the contras.
One strong veracity in the light of facts that have been exposed and processed in the public arena all through the years is that the pro-Obasanjo camp is a collection of sycophants, paid praise singers and favor-hungry adorers. Their stock in trade is never to see any evil in the government and person of the ex-General and all he stands for. They will go to any length to crush any movement in the semblance of criticism. Most voluble amongst them are official spokespersons and such characters as are conspicuously close to the corridors of political power in the past eight years.
It is also an undisputable veracity that the hardcore of the anti-Obasanjo camp are disgruntled characters who have mainly fallen out of favor with the ex-President, failed to get desired favor from him or were outright badly offended by him in wanton fallacy. Their stock in trade is to see in the ex-President evil, evil and nothing but evil. Anything in the semblance of positivity in Olusegun Obasanjo will be subjected to relativism and outright denial. The most prominent face is Professor Okey Ndibe. The larger section of this camp comprises the common man, whose expectations in governance was not met and was dealt the deadly shot of disillusionment by the obnoxious quest for a third term in the Presidency.
The sheer numerical strength of this latter group has thus far, transformed into a formidable dynamics that has gyrated out of control in seeking to consume the camp of protagonists and apologists. While the greatest crime of the group of protagonists and apologists has been a life in delusion and pseudo-reality of being blind to the obvious atrocities associated with the government of the ex-President, the greatest failing of the anti-Obasanjo group has been a desperate, aggressive and frantic effort to annihilate favorable sentiments and even the balanced voices of neutrality.
By virtue of the dominance of this subject in the news media, comments on any political subject on modern-day Nigeria can hardly go without a mention of the word Obasanjo in any form possible. It therefore goes that a large section of my commentaries have one way or the other, dealt with Olusegun Obasanjo.
In every case, my focus is and will always be on the achievements and evils of the government that he led. I have on many occasions drawn attention to the killing of Bola Ige and the powerful allegations that can and should never be ignored that Olusegun Obasanjo was directly involved in the killing of this exceptional politician. I have advocated a meaningful and powerful investigation not the least, since the stage-managed investigations in the dying days of the past administration tried to offer a smokescreen. Indeed, I hold the view that if the United Nations could set up an investigation to probe the death of Rafik Hariri in Lebanon, why can't one be set up to probe the killing of Nigeria's serving Minister of Justice?
I have questioned the source of the explosive wealth of the ex-General that was reported to have come out of prison with just N 20,000.00 in his account. I have consistently pointed out inefficiency in the government led by Olusegun Obasanjo in the handling of the problems facing the nation. I have condemned his advocacy for a third term in the Presidency, as was the official position of the NigerianNews as well.
Indeed, since I do not belong to the camp of Obasanjo haters and do not have any reason whatsoever, to hate the ex-President (never sought any political appointment to be denied one and have never required any favor whatsoever from his administration and have never ever met him or anyone close to him in my whole life), I always ask that those credible groundbreaking achievements that distinguishes his administration from past ones should not be swept beneath the carpet. If Obasanjo claims to have revamped his farming empire with bank loans, he should not be shouted down. He should be listened to.
Indeed, I am a strong advocate of a probe into the activities of Obasanjo's eight years in office because I do not regard a public probe as a public disgrace. Much as it will reveal many wrongdoings, it will give the ex-President the opportunity to clear his name once and for all.
I have always sought to point out that the nation Olusegun Obasanjo handed over in 1979 to President Shehu Shagari was not the nation he took over again in 1999. Quite objectively and fairly, the nation he handed over to Umaru Musa Yar'Adua in 2007 is far better than what he took over in 1999 despite very many shortcomings that he could have corrected and failed to, not to mention failures at the peripheral level of state administration.
Precisely this doesn't go down well with the camp that doesn't like the former President. In the aftermath of seeking to shout me down, the common grounds that I share with them of going after him for his evils or wrongdoings are sacrificed for my call to also give him praises where praises are due. In the end, they push me to their corner of choice to blur off the dividing line of middle grounders.
Then came the issue of Gbenga Obasanjo. A young man who has apparently fallen out with his father for matters that the public knows nothing about. With the startling revelation that his father President Obasanjo had sexual relations with the wife of his own son, no doubt the ultimate goal was to embarrass his dad in the public domain knowing too well that there is a huge crowd out there that will thankfully pick on the subject to make their day. As one NigerianNews columnist Tunde Adenodi put it in an intellectually well-balanced article, Obasanjo the father is a ruthless and brutal roadside radical that will stop at nothing to annihilate his enemy whenever anyone is perceived as such. His son Gbenga had obviously taken up this trait. Every decent family would have handled an issue of this nature quietly without publicity and the mass media. Many have perhaps, done so before Gbenga and many will probably do so after him. We can all be sure that this issue may not be the first of its kind to have happened in Nigeria.
That was precisely the views that I expressed in good faith because I know too well how anyone would be feeling being in the skin of the ex-President. I did not disregard the feelings of Gbenga Obasanjo in anyway. I was only too certain that Gbenga Obasanjo did not seek remedy or help from the public to cure the pains that he felt if the allegations were true. It was obvious that he merely sought vengeance and embarrassment for his father in the aftermath of a quarrel none of us in the public is aware of. If the relationship with his dad were a cordial one, no doubt he would probably have kicked out his wife and seek to sort out issues with his dad in private domain.
My position was seen by the almighty crowd of jubilating anti-Obasanjoists as sympathetic to Obasanjo the father and not the son, whose accusation is yet unproven. Indeed anyone that failed to join in jubilation over a disgracing revelation was termed a traitor and a sycophant.
The issue of Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello is indeed crowning up the endless episode that will drag on for a long time to come. Indeed before hearing Iyabo Obasanjo's side of the story, I was dumbfounded at the rationale behind her obscure behavior. At the time she spoke out however, I advocated that she should not be shouted down because she did make some very credible points.
The whole nation is in agreement that the senate (represented by the Chairperson of its Health Committee Iyabo Obasanjo) surely has a case to answer. If she had oversight functions over a Ministry as Chairperson of a Senate Committee, she owed a duty to have prevailed on the Ministry of Health to return unspent money. Instead she had joined in the sharing of the said money. Whether she bears the name Obasanjo or not, it is clear that she should stand accused of aiding and abetting stealing. I therefore implied that the EFCC is simply accusing her of the wrong offence and filing the wrong charges against the senator. I hold the views that she can hardly be accused of corruption or stealing unspent budget money but simply aiding and abetting same. I neither hold brief for her nor do I hold any plea for her innocence. Above all she is not above the law. I simply questioned the rationale behind charging her in her personal capacity since she did not embezzle the money in any private capacity. She neither bought a private jet with it nor is she said to have deposited it in her private account. She even claim not to have collected the money personally. The senate in which name she acted has testified that her disbursement of the money was well documented and legal.
While I agree that a theory advanced by one commentator may be credible, claiming that she may have indeed taken the money as a personal share of the unspent budget money, and hastily arranged a retreat to justify her acceptance of the money after the whistle was blown, the reality on the ground simply shows that she spent this money on behalf of the senate, which is funnily also defending her. Quite objectively, it is the senate that should be charged to court with Iyabo as the main witness.
Unfortunately however, the Senator apparently lacks the courage of a true politician to face EFCC's detention until the court sets her free in the face of the Commission's feeble case. Understandably though, since compensation for wrongful detention will no longer be an issue in the aftermath of the discomfort suffered, as some robust judicial system would have practiced, the hide and seek game is quite normal no matter how cowardly it is.
Funnily, this objective assessment that would have been fairly debated if the name did not include a segment called Obasanjo, simply attracts nothing but the fury of the almighty crowd of anti-Obasanjoists of which there is an endless number these days. But should a commentator be intimidated?
The accustomed voices are up again. "Traitor", "Sellout", and the likes are phrases anyone is used to taking, who does not partake in the verbal lynching of anything Obasanjo. I have heard words like Obasanjo being my god, my godfather in Otta, my hero, my achiever, etc. Some have called me Asslicker, a jinxed washerman laundering an irredeemable image etc. Some have characterized me as being in the payroll of the Ex-President and now some allegedly in places of authority have claimed that Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello (whose face I only know from the media) has paid or pledged money to me to qualify her as aiding and abetting stealing.
Indeed, anything falling short of applauding the EFCC for seeking to lock up someone who disobeyed its advice is treachery. Unfortunately however, I can only repeat that Iyabo's (better said: the Senate's) refusal to return the money after being warned by the EFCC is wrong but is not the actual crime in itself. The senate accepting the money (through the person of Iyabo) is the crime not disrespect for the EFCC or disregard for presidential directive. One then begins to wonder if Iyabo's onerous burden is simply nothing else but the last name "Obasanjo" that she bears.
In fact, the whole regulation permitting the funding of legislative activities by Ministries subjected to the oversight functions of the parliamentary organs is a contradiction in itself and should be abolished as no other parliament runs the same system anywhere in the world. Even the EFCC is also said to be accepting money from questionable sources for retreats.
It therefore goes that hearing foolish claims on regular basis that one is a sellout or in the payroll of some politicians with their back against the wall definitely loses its thought-provoking impact and becomes counter-productive after sometime. While I understand the sentiments of readers or hobby writers who hold different views on different issues, I also appreciate the fact that everyone does not have equal intellectual maturity to simply respect the views of another no matter how much they differ. With insults and abuses however, every commentator is further radicalized and strengthened in the commitment to further angering and irritating the uncontrolled and aggressive emotions of the lynch mob on the rampage.